Federal Government not Focusing on Mental Health Response Reform Despite Public Support

Over the past year, many cities have implemented police alternatives for mental health responses. In addition, the momentum for diverting some 911 calls to mental health crisis teams have been gaining. These reforms could have prevented interactions with law enforcement that ended the lives of Prude, Nicolas ChavezWalter Wallace Jr., Angelo QuintoDeborah Tanner, and countless others who were met with weapons rather than psych care. 

People with untreated serious mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during an encounter with the cops than other civilians, according to research by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit supporting treatment for severe mental illness. The reason: Cops are usually not trained to adequately identify or understand psychosis. Rather, their training tells them to react to every encounter as a potential threat. Justice reform and mental health advocates say sending mental health crisis teams to deal with psychiatric emergencies would save lives.

Mental health services has only been expanded on the state level, and more commonly, on the city/local level. Federal involvement for police reform and mental health responses has been non-existent the past year. A majority of the public is willing to make a financial investment at the federal level. A 2020 survey from the Alliance for Safety and Justice found more than three-quarters of voters support using federal funding to expand mental health crisis responses.

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